Living Life in the Mountains

Thinning Trees in Your Private Forest Land

I’m finding it rather exhilarating to own forested land! And it feels like a big responsibility to make this little piece of forest as healthy as it can be. In a couple years or so, we’ll be able to truly enjoy it to the full extent. Right now, having recently moved in to our mountain home, it is a huge amount of work! (Although, even now, we love it)

SONY DSCMost of the work on the outside has been the mangled, tangled mess of trees in the back acreage.   We moved in knowing nothing about thinning trees, but we hit the Internet running. Now we know at least enough to thin out our forest in a responsible way.

Everyone will have different standards and guidelines for thinning trees. On our property, we have pines (ranging from HUGE, to seedlings), firs, and aspen. We had to prioritize our trees before we started cutting. We did that not based on how much we liked the tree, but more so, how likely the tree would last through the years. Aspen tend to die over the years. Firs either die or start looking scraggly (at least the type of fir we have on the land), and the pines grow into massive giants that will be here long after we are gone!

So pines, generally, took priority. That meant if there were a tangle of an aspen, and fir, and a pine all choking each other, the pine got to stay, although it was usually damaged from being strangled, now it had a chance. It could breathe! It could get sunshine, and it didn’t have to share its water in its space.


The pines don’t always win though. For example, when there was a good healthy aspen grove with some scraggly pines growing too close, the aspen won out. And the fir trees won out some times too. Thinning is almost a work of art, and the artist can create the look he or she desires.

Our trees are still too close together for the long run, but this year our goal is merely to give individual trees some space. I can almost see the trees that have been released from the strangulation of other trees spread out their branches with joy, especially after the first good rain.

After we cut down some huge dead trees, we were able to make an awesome sitting area, which will be getting a propane gas fire pit in the middle of it soon. Mike also found a great way to use some of the wood by making a base for our swing.  Most of the wood will be firewood for next winter, and that will save us about $1000 by not having to buy it!

So I don’t have anything terribly profound to share, just perhaps, good common “horse sense” that trees, like people, need some space! And that it’s better to have one live and healthy tree than three half dead trees struggling to stay alive because of too little room. Also, clearing trees and leaving the healthy ones makes for a lovely setting. Even our goats are enjoying the space!

Lucy, Sadie, and Miriam

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